Grand Flamenco Xcaret
Riviera Maya, Mexico
The Grand Flamenco Xcaret, one of the Occidental Hotel chain’s newest resorts in the recently developed Riviera Maya section of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, is a standout destination for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is its size. The immense, sprawling property has nearly 800 rooms with buildings no higher than three stories. There are huge pools and river-like waterways that connect them. Visitors will also find 11 restaurants, a large outdoor theater, shops, tennis courts, a spa, a children’s camp and everything else you might expect from a modern beachfront all-inclusive resort. However, what sets the Grand Flamenco Xcaret apart is the fact that it was designed and built with a minimal amount of impact to the lush jungle surroundings of the region. The resort features walkways and bridges that cut through areas of undisturbed natural beauty which are respectfully maintained by an attentive staff. Lizards, deer and spectacular butterflies are abundant and each calls the resort home. And then, to top off what can only be described as an embarrassment of riches, the hotel is adjacent to the magnificent Xcaret Theme park (see more below).
From the moment our review team entered the property it was easy to see that no expense had been spared in designing this spectacular destination. The soaring thatched roofs above belied the beauty of the shining marble floors below (more on that later). Waterfalls and staff were everywhere cleaning, polishing and ready to lend a helping hand. There is a definite European flair to the style and feel of the resort, slightly more formal, slightly more cosmopolitan. This made sense since this is not a resort that is regularly overrun with Americans. In fact our reviewers met visitors from every continent during their visit. The “deluxe” rooms which our review families stayed in were standard sized hotel rooms, but they were appointed nicely, especially the bathrooms which extended the marble theme throughout. Our team had two adjoining rooms, nice for a family of five, though we would recommend booking one of the corner suite options of a Junior Suite and adjoining regular room.
Bringing a family to an all-inclusive resort is a real pleasure, especially when traveling out of the country. The Grand Flamenco is a great place for you and your children to indulge in as much or as little food as you want. (It’s vacation, who would opt for the latter?) The three buffet restaurants, spread throughout the property, featured a varied assortment of dishes both local and American. The food is plentiful and the children enjoyed trying some of everything, especially the desserts. Dinners offer a wider assortment of choices as the resort’s themed restaurants open for business. You will need to make reservations, although that was a mystery since the restaurants were barely half full each night. Everyone must wear shoes in the restaurants and men must wear long pants, part of that European flair again. The Hacienda (Mexican theme) and D’Oriental were standouts, while the Sonora Grill and Los Olivos disappointed.
The pools are wonderfully clean and ingeniously designed with a variety of depths so that you can easily sit on a chaise lounge half submerged in the water if you like, or you can slip into a sunken Jacuzzi.
There are plenty of rope hammocks and other ways to relax and unwind, such as an outdoor bar where you sit on swings and hundreds of available chaise lounges.
The number of employees is truly remarkable. There are over 600, which means that you will be hard pressed to look anywhere without finding a uniformed staff member, most of whom were exceptionally friendly and upbeat.
The most significant drawing card of the Grand Flamenco Xcaret, is Xcaret itself. This unique theme park is part zoo, part beach, part historical preserve and so much more. Imagine Sea World, Epcot and the San Diego Zoo all rolled into one. Are you getting the picture now? Included in your stay at the Grand Flamenco are tickets (a $49 per person value) to this remarkable, one-of-a-kind experience. Our reviewers strolled into the park from the resort’s private entrance which is less than 100 yards from the lobby. There is so much to see and do that you will want to plan a full day at the park. From climbing over and through Mayan ruins to seeing monkeys, jaguars and pumas up close your camera will be working overtime. The butterfly pavilion is magnificent as is the Sea Turtle exhibit, both are must sees. There is a nice swimming beach but if you want to cool off you must float down one of the two rivers that meander through and under the park, through limestone canyons, lush jungles and underground caves. (We recommend renting the snorkeling flippers, but the facemask is unnecessary.) And while quite expensive, swimming with the dolphins is an experience that really must be had. The park is situated just south of the resort and has been created in much the same way the resort has, with minimal impact to the environment, meaning you will be walking through lush landscape that is really quite beautiful.
1) There are enthusiastic, well meaning activities counselors, who do their best to drum up participants in a variety of activities, but it feels forced and the enthusiasm often waned.
2) There is a drop-off Kids Center that despite its best intentions was staffed by lackluster counselors and a setup that puts too much emphasis on video games.
3) If you are looking for miles of white sandy Caribbean beaches, this is not your resort. The beach is a cramped affair that is really a cove, making the beach more of a salt-water pool.
4) There is a very nice disco that is open late but attempts to open the club up to teens early each night could not draw even a single participant.
5) The resort is all-inclusive but more often than expected, you can get caught in need of money when you are least expecting it. For instance, if you make the trek (either on foot or with the nicely provided shuttles) to the beach and want to snorkel, you’ll need to find a waterproof place for your money or credit card in your bathing suit since you’ll need to leave a deposit. Want to pick something up in one of the resort shops and charge it to your room? No dice. The result is people walking around with very soggy money.
6) Part of the appealing design of the resort is also part of a problem that needs to be addressed. The man-made river that flows from the lobby, past the shops and into Xcaret Park, is a more of stagnant pool, which quite often was unpleasantly malodorous.
7) This brings us to our final, yet very critical shortcoming. The attractive marble tile that is used everywhere in strikingly beautiful fashion is nothing short of a disaster on the floors of this resort. When wet, either from rain or from dripping bathing suits, the marble turns into a slippery nightmare, our reviewers watched as visitors slipped or fell morning, noon and night. Hotel managers are obviously aware of the condition since they frequently dispatch employees to dry the floors. Regardless, Occidental must address this dangerous situation immediately.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
The Grand Flamenco Xcaret is not the ideal “Family” resort if you are planning to have a separate yet together vacation. By which we mean, a place you can drop the kids and have loads of grown-up alone time. Also, with the paucity of included ocean activities, leaving the resort and Xcaret as your best activity options you probably won’t want to spend a full week either. However, for a five night stay, this can be destination that will serve up a very memorable vacation. Our suggestion is that if you have to spend more than 4 hours flying to Cancun you should probably look elsewhere. That said, we are quite confident that the Grand Flamenco can play host to a trip that you will enjoy as a family, creating terrific and lasting memories, which is really what great family vacations are all about. –Audrey Kennedy
Price for family of five for a five nights: One Jr. Suite, One Deluxe Room $2,615 USD
- Family Services(60)
- Physical Plant(92)
- Food Service(88)
- OVERALL SCORE (